Publisher's note: This post appears here courtesy of the LifeZette, and written by Meg Meeker, MD.
We have seen a rise in the diagnosis of autism
across our country - and dubious comments from many corners that the MMR vaccine "causes" autism has fueled the fears of many parents.
Fortunately for parents and caregivers across the country, President Donald Trump recently allocated $ 1.8 billion over the next five years to Autism Cares for research on autism
This should thrill all parents whether they have a child with autism or not - as most of us have or know a friend with autism.
Autism is currently referred to as ASD, which stands for autism spectrum disorder. It's entered the popular vernacular because we've learned over the past decade that autism presents itself through many different symptoms and severities.
Symptoms of ASD include communication difficulties; problems relating to, or empathizing with, other people; difficulty transitioning from one activity to another; sensitivity to touch; and trouble with noise or excitement.
Many children are socially awkward and avoid eye contact or even talking with others.
The prevalence of ASD has increased in the U.S. over the past decade. Physicians have wondered whether this rise is due to better diagnosis - or to an actual increase in the number of kids and adults with it.
The answer is that it is probably both.
Currently, one in 59 children are diagnosed with ASD.
Back in 2000, one in 150 children were diagnosed with it.
The condition occurs four times more in males than in females.
To date, no one knows what actually causes ASD. The angst over the MMR vaccine "causing" ASD must go away because any "association" between the two has been clearly disproved.
The prestigious medical journal The Lancet first published Dr. Andrew Wakefield's "research" on this. Once that journal reviewed his findings more closely, they retracted their original article because the findings were not founded in solid medical research but rather in anecdotal evidence.
The organization saw that doctors were diagnosing kids with autism around the same time they were administering the MMR vaccine.
Clearly, their findings didn't reveal a cause and effect - but merely a co-occurrence.
But once they wrote about their findings, parents around the world panicked.
That's why we should all be elated with the president's recent signing of new legislation
. Research on autism will help us understand its cause, its effects on children, earlier diagnosis of it, and better treatments for it.
While most physicians are focused on diagnosing autism in children, we need to remember that ASD is a lifetime neurological issue.
It doesn't go away when a child becomes an adult.
And as much difficulty as kids can have adapting to school, academics, navigating social situations, etc., adults with ASD will have them as well - unless, of course, we find better treatments for ASD. These will only come from more research into it.
ASD can be a disabling disorder for many children and adults with it because it affects their productivity and quality of life.
And it has an enormous effect on loved ones who care for those with ASD.
It appears autism isn't going away soon - and that's why we need to ramp up efforts to help those who suffer from it.
If there is any possibility of reversing its rise and watching it decline - it will only come through more research, which comes, of course from better funding.
On behalf of every child, adult and loved one with ASD, we say thank you, Mr. President, for signing the new legislation into law.